Although I had some idea of what might be involved, I found the experience, under David’s sensitive and kindly tutelage, both more enjoyable and certainly more profound than I expected.
Told to ‘go towards what attracts you’ on Jermyn Street seemed like hedonistic licence, and I did indeed wander into a well-known emporium for a spot of cheese-tasting. In fact, a heightened awareness of both taste and smell (with the Psalmist’s line ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ playing at the back of my mind) along with sustained and patient looking shaped my day. Wandering and observing is something I like to do anyway but doing it very slowly and repeatedly was new. I saw sculpture I had not seen before and stopped to observe pattern, shape and form in building sites and scaffolding as much as grand architecture and laid-out lawns.
The question which I wrestled with in the longer session had to do with patience (and my own impatience) and what it meant to me in the context of my marriage as we both grow older and slower. I found myself – perhaps in both senses – in the White Cube gallery looking at three huge rectangular wooden beams suspended, seemingly motionless, in a large empty space. Normally, I would dismiss such conceptual art as shallow and not worth spending much time with. But I stopped and looked and took in the relationship of each beam to the other, how that relationship shifted as I moved, and how one pendant beam might move slightly, seemingly independent of the other or of me. I peered into their hollowed-out centres through to the other side. The silence of the gallery encouraged reflection: how relationships shift over time, often imperceptibly and in quite undramatic ways. I learnt that sometimes my own angle of vision appeared to effect change but how too movement and change were not always, and did not need to be, in my control, that re-shaping and re-balancing came about not as a result of my willing them so but from forces and directions that asked only that I paid heed.
Having regaled my husband with some of the day’s events, in particular the line ‘O taste and see’ , he reminded me of Denise Levertov’s poem of the same name. The next day being International Women’s Day, I read it to a small gathering at St James’s. It sums up Street Wisdom rather well, I think.
O Taste and See
The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking